from the Old School

Posted by Ken Edwards on Friday, October 9, 2009 Under: writing
Kent Johnson, Quite Interesting US Poet/Annoying Bastard (delete according to preference), has posted a blog here under the image of a Union Flag (he says it's upside down) about what he describes as the New British School of poetry.

He talks of 'a con­stel­la­tion of per­fectly excit­ing UK poets writ­ing “in wake of” the Cambridge-​based greats J. H. Prynne and Tom Raworth– who could be seen, in their two pres­ences, genealog­i­cally speak­ing, as some­what to their later gen­er­a­tion what Lan­guage poetry as a “tradition” is to the “most advanced sector” of the younger U.S. “post-avant.”'

Johnson concedes that some might term it the "New Cambridge School", though many of its practitioners don't live there. Indeed, he cites Brighton (just down the coast from me) as "where much of the most impor­tant action now is". Well, it's where Keston Sutherland, his main source of information, now resides.

Keston, of course, was one of just four poets featured in the so-called "British poetry issue" of Chicago Review. Excellent poets too, though one of them is actually American.

No undue disrespect to them, or to Chicago Review, or indeed to Kent or his many alter egos - their attempt to draw attention to current British poetry is indeed laudable - but excuse me while I yawn in despair.

I have been in the poetry business long enough now to realise that every few years a US poetry mag brings out a "British poetry" issue, and there is much handwringing over how neglected post-avant or parallel tradition Brit Po is in the USA, and how the Brits are so much more politically engaged than their laid-back US counterparts, etc - and then everybody forgets about it and things go back to normal. How many Brits have books out from US small presses?

Please, please someone convince me that this is going to be different.

PS I really want to nail the untruth that the British post-avant scene is hostile to Language Poetry. That may have been the Cambridge party line, for reasons that have never been entirely clear to me, but it's not generally true. The magazines I was associated with in the 1970s and 80s - Alembic and Reality Studios - were the first to publish Langpo poets in the UK, but they were followed by others. None of us ever regarded ourselves as Language Poets, but many were and are sympathetic to the tendency and its legacy.

In : writing 

Tags: "british poetry" 
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Ken Edwards This blog is written by Ken Edwards, co-founder and editor/publisher of Reality Street, and it's mainly about the press. Ken's personal blog can now be found at